One of those firsts happened earlier this week when the city’s public works team installed one of the boat launch docks on Harbor Island.
The next few weeks are going to be like the last few weeks,”City Manager Pat McGinnis said of the milder weather. “We said, why not put the skid pier out (at the Harbor Island launch)?”
The city has recently fielded several calls from residents who are interested in launching their boats from the island, McGinnis said.
“The idea is there’s consumer demand out there,” he said. “We’ve never been earlier than mid- to late-March.”
McGinnis expects the dock will remain in the water for the remainder of the winter and into the spring and summer.
“If it does freeze up, we don’t think it will be a deep freeze,” he said. “(And) they’re easy to take out.”
The milder temperatures also led the city’s Department of Public Works to turn off the de-icing bubblers at the Municipal Marina earlier than normal.
“We usually leave them on until (late) February,” McGinnis said. “February is (typically) our coldest month.”
With the Grand River ice gone and a reduced threat of any damaging hard freeze in the future, McGinnis said they made the decision to remove the bubblers.
Last week, city crews also opened the Mulligan’s Hollow concrete skate park for use.
"On the 17th, we opened the skate park, which is by far the earliest that has ever happened,” McGinnis said. “We’re always under fire from the skaters to open it up and shovel it out.”
City officials say one amenity they’re waiting a while longer to open are the restroom facilities. These facilities are winterized, and opening them up too early could put plumbing fixtures at risk of freezing if temperatures fall low enough.
“It looks like we open them in May for the most part,” McGinnis said. “A couple of them we open in April.”
McGinnis said it’s possible the city will look at opening some of the facilities early if weather conditions warrant it.
Other mid-winter changes
Last week, the Ottawa County Parks Department announced that since ski conditions are currently non-existent at Pigeon Creek, they would be opening the park back up to hikers and dog walkers. The trails there are typically closed to walkers and dogs until winter operations have ended.
County parks officials noted in their announcement that if there is more snow this season, the trails will close again to hikers and dogs in order to groom them for cross-country skiers.
The trails will remain closed to bikes and horses until parks officials are confident that winter operations have ended for the season.